How to manage, modify and mitigate behaviors related to separation
Staying at home for an extended period of time can be a great excuse to spend more time with your dog. But don’t expect your dog to be happy about you going back to your usual routine and spending longer periods of time away. They may not understand why all of the sudden you’re leaving again.
While you’re away, your dog may begin to show signs of distress, like vocalizing, destroying the house or even show signs of potty-training regression or self-harm. These signs of anxiety when left alone can be caused from Isolation Distress (ID) or Separation Anxiety (SA).
Dogs with Isolation Distress exhibit behaviors that subside as long as someone—anyone—is with them. They may even be fine with another dog or animal in the home with them. Dogs with Separation Anxiety show distress when their one particular person is gone. They could be home with others in the family but still show symptoms.
It is always recommended to work with a certified animal behaviorist to address Separation Anxiety. (Be aware, dogs who are bored or have bad house manners may behave like they have Separation Anxiety. Typically, you would need to set up a hidden camera to catch your dog’s antics while you’re away and share the video with your pet’s behaviorist.)
In addition, PetSmart has introduced a new 3-week Stress Less™ Program to help pet parents learn skills and behaviors to help reduce their dog’s anxious behaviors related to separation. The program will teach prevention and management skills for unwanted behavior and will help your dog feel more secure and confident when they’re home without you.
To help prevent the onset of Separation Anxiety, here are some tips:
Desensitize the cues that signal you’re leaving. We tend to create patterns of behavior before leaving the house which dogs pick up on and that can cause a buildup of tension in your dog and ultimately be a precursor to Separation Anxiety. Typical cues can be:
To desensitize your dog, present the above cues but do NOT actually leave. This will help undo the conditioning between the cues and you leaving. To take it a step further, pair the “leaving” cues with positive rewards, so your dog responds to your “leaving” cues with the excitement and expectation of a reward rather than the anxiety and expectation of you leaving.
Sign up for our new Stress Less™ Program
Once you return to your normal routine, here are a few more tips: